Category Archives: Vivacious Vegetables

Easy cheesy potatoes

I hope you guys have had an amazing weekend. Like me, you should be sitting back, relaxing, patting yourself on the back for getting those few pesky chores done and smiling on all the fun you just had. Because like me, you just had the perfect summer weekend. That totally happened for you too, right?

This gal got to go to Duluth and see her indomitable brother not only complete Grandma’s Marathon, but do it with a smile on his face. In a word. Amazing. Oh and one more. Inspiring.
It was great to see him and our friends push themselves past their limits. Also super fun was cheering on all those runners, friends or not.

Grandmas Marathon-1

Then today on a foray for breakfast, we met a couple of amazing small farmers, selling produce fresh from their greenhouse. They had everything we were looking to do (albeit on a much larger scale). They were certainly the nicest couple, and willing to share some pointers and fantastic produce. Brekkie was quickly followed by a nap in the hammock and now I’m re-energized for more.

Now, fill in the gap in time (and space) between those two paragraphs and fill it with talking, laughter, and foodie love. Yeah that was my very perfect weekend. And now to top it off with the easiest side dish in all the lands. Now keep in mind, I live in the frozen tundra so even in June, it’s no big to have my oven on for 30, but if you live in warmer climes, pop these into a well oiled foil packet and toss ‘em on your grill. Easy, cheesy, comfort food, and the simplest side dish imaginable.


Easy cheesy potatoes from thePenandthePan

Easy cheesy potatoes

2 lbs potatoes
½ cup onion, chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
¾ – 1 cup shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 350°.

Clean, trim, and peel potatoes (if desired). Slice potatoes into ¼ inch pieces and place in 9×13” pan. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Top with onions and green pepper. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Bake uncovered at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and potatoes are pierced easily with a fork.


Cucumber salsa

Rain, rain, go away. Or don’t your choice. Because right now, you’re giving me the excuse I needed to sit inside and pour over those many recipes I’ve been clipping and relaxing with Himself as we watch that creek in the backyard transform itself into a mighty river. Oh, not to worry, there’s little danger of it reaching the house. It’s a gorgeous thing to see, though. This week, the awesome power of nature was driven home once again as we woke in the middle of the night to closer than you’d wish lightning strikes and rain playing its staccato beats on the windows and roof.

The next morning, said creek reached higher than I’d ever seen. High enough that later that afternoon, I saw a man kayaking through my backyard. Yeah, that’s right kayaking! And with already swollen waterways, today’s (and last night’s and all yesterday afternoon’s) rain have resulted in flood warnings. But oooh, does it transform our backyard into a thing of beauty.

A thing of beauty and an excuse to stay indoors and revel in each other’s company. And we have a new Sunday tradition that’s aiding in said revelry. Now stop right there, this here is a completely PG blog, my friends. No, what we’ve decided is that Sundays are for sans phones. That’s right, the completely tech-obsessed girl goes sans phone and except for the time needed to make a quick blog post, sans internet too. No facebook, no phones, no email. Oh sure, if you really tried you could get a hold of us, but this whole hermit-y hiding thing is getting to be a Sunday tradition.

You know what else Sundays are for? Smoking meat. Mmmmm, smoked pork to be precise. A little rain (or even a lot) isn’t going to get in the way of that. And how, one wonders, can they possibly make meat in the smoker or on the grill even better? Well, I’ve got the answer for you – cucumber salsa. This sweetly heated salsa is the perfect accompaniment to pork or steak, grilled or smoked. Heck, it’d be awfully tasty on baked tofu too. A little crunch, a little heat, it’ll dress up whichever protein you have on hand.


Cucumber salsa from thePenandthePan

Cucumber salsa

Inspired by the Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger

2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
½ poblano pepper, seeded and chopped finely
2 green topped onions, white and green portions chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
good pinch cumin
hot sauce to taste

Place cucumber, pepper, onions, garlic and cilantro in a medium bowl. Toss together.

In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Drizzle over cucumber mixture and toss again. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Serve as a topping to your favorite meats or baked tofu.

Smashed potatoes from Closet Cooking

You know what’s amazing and awesome and about to happen to this very gal?! Getting to see your favorite band, in your favorite venue, with your favorite sibling! I’ll be real honest here, I can’t focus on a whole lot else right now. Tomorrow immediately after work, I’m hopping in the car for a solo camera venture across the state, landing in Minneapolis just in time for dinner with friends and then a night full of ROCK! All that excitement to be followed on Saturday by lunching with some favorite ladies, a little retail therapy, and another scenic route home. Just me, visits with rad people, and exactly zero pressure.

It did cross my mind to stay for a second day, but on the way into work this week, I looked around at all the peeps coming to vacation in this town, and I thought, “Huh, do I really want to miss out on a fine weekend afternoon in what will surely be the shortest of summers?” The answer was an emphatic no. That coupled with the fact that the ever talented Himself is willing to work on my car on Sunday, and it’s a def no-brainer, not a single moment wasted away from my north woods paradise.

That said, I’m crazy excited to go, and have exactly zero interest in planning elaborate meals this week. So, because I’m a grown up, it’s appetizers for dinner! Boom! Cause I can. I love this recipe because you can fancy it up for your friends, or do what I did and use leftover bits and pieces languishing in my sad fridge. Intentional ingredients, happy accidents with leftovers, either way, these little bites are so yummy. Think a potato skin with more potato and less grease and guilt.

I’ve copied over the original recipe from Closet Cooking in case you’re ready to wow your friends, but if you just want a little comfort snack, you’ll get the gist of it and adapt away.


Smashed potatoes from thePenandthePan

Smashed potatoes from Closet Cooking

1 pound new potatoes (about 1-1 1/2 inches across), washed
2 tablespoons oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 strips bacon (optional)
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup sour cream
2 green onions, sliced

Bring the potatoes and enough water to cover them by an inch to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until a fork can easily be pushed into them, about 15-30 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes, before draining them.

Place the potatoes on a greased baking sheet and ‘smash’ them by pressing down on them with something like a potato masher, the bottom of a glass or bowl, etc.

Brush the potatoes with oil, season with salt and pepper and bake them on the top shelf of a preheated 450F oven until golden brown and crispy on top, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile cook and crumble the bacon.

Sprinkle the cheddar onto the potatoes and optionally broil for a minute to melt the cheese.

Top with the sour cream, bacon and green onions and enjoy as a side or as an appetizer!

Option: You can cook and smash the potatoes a day ahead of time.

Green chili cornbread

It finally feels like summer. And this gal has been soaking up every instant of her crazy long, 4-day weekend. I can tell you, not one moment of this weekend wasn’t put to good use, including those frequent moments where it may have looked like I was lounging in the sun. Oh, no I was not lounging. No, mam, it is a well proven fact that this gal doesn’t even know how to lounge. Instead, I was awaiting photo opportunities. And look at my rewards!


Ok, I may have found a moment in there for relaxing. Just a moment, mind you, I mean there was gardening and outdoor work to be had (things ever so near and dear to my heart). And the weather, well, it just doesn’t get more perfect. It’s weekends like these that convince me anew that we live in the best place on earth. 80’s during the day, chilly enough for blankets at night. Welcome to the rest of the summer.

So there two food things that make my frozen heart so happy during these warm months. Smoked meats and green chilies. Weird, right? Don’t judge. Every summer, Himself shows off his prowess with the smoker, and I plant too many banana pepper plants and buy way too much sweet corn. Every single summer, and yet, we never get sick of it. As if to reinforce that statement, the wind chose that very moment to shift directions, bringing me the amazing, tantalizing scents of pork tenderloin adrift on cherrywood smoke woven in with fresh mowed grass.

Where do the green chilies come in, you ask. Well, after planting far too many, I find myself roasting them (and roasting and roasting) at the end of the summer. You’d think I’d learn, but nope, not only did I plant a ridiculous amount of banana peppers, I also found a black Hungarian version, and planted those. And after a lot of setbacks, weather- and self-induced, those plants are finally in the ground.

Oh, but wait, we still want those flavors at the beginning of summer too. Enter this cornbread. Adapted from my mom’s recipe, it’s a real cake-like corn bread with bites of corn and chilies studded throughout. And it’s the perfect, perfect accompaniment to any BBQ meal, or if you’re lucky (and obsessed) like me, the best accompaniment to a meal of smoke meats. Smoked meats, c’mon it’s just so fun to say, let alone eat. But we’re talking cornbread here. This, like yours truly, is of northern stock, meaning a hint of sweet and a lot of “bread” to match that cornmeal. Doesn’t matter if you’re a northern or southern cornbread lover though, you’re going to love the addition of fresh corn and green chilies!


Green chili cornbread from thePenandthePan-1

Green chili cornbread

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
½ tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
¼ butter, softened
1 cup milk
Kernels from one ear of corn, about 1 scant cup
½ of a 4-oz can of green chilies, about 2 scant tablespoons

Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together butter and egg. Add milk and mix well.

Add wet ingredients to flour and cornmeal mixture. Mix well. Add corn and chilies and continue mixing until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Samosa wonton cups

You guys! I just want to go outside so badly. Me and everyone else in this town. It’s been rainy and cold, and we just can’t take it any more. Well, ok, there are some things about the rain that are sorta ok. There are few things that smell nearly as amazing as rain in the wet and muddy pines.

Problem is, while I could totally handle the cold in February, it’s April (imagine me saying that last part in the whiniest voice you ever heard). Now I just want to be outside. The birds and animals are all returning despite the cold, and I want to enjoy it too.

Just check out this wolf we spotted on the way to work on Monday. Granted, I don’t want to run into this dude outside, but with zero woodscraft, he’d hear me coming and be gone long before I reached him.

Wolf_Deer River-2

Can’t really blame this guy for coming around, though, check out all these deer (look closely, my friends). We’ve been seeing crazy amounts (16 at a time!) in the field across the way. Yayyy nature!

Deer a-grazing

Oh well, this time indoors hasn’t been put to good use. Just check out these samosa wonton cups I made. This appetizer isn’t really a wonton and it isn’t really a samosa. But what it is, is super crazy delicious, and it’s my blog, so I’m calling them samosa wontons. So there.

There are a lot of steps, but they’re super easy. Though, you can also make the filling and wonton cups ahead of time. Just wait to fill the cups until ready to serve. Either way they’re delish!


Samosa wonton cups

Samosa wonton cups

24 wonton wrappers (found in the produce section)
3 large potatoes, peeled and diced to ½ inch
½ tablespoon olive oil
⅓ cup onion, chopped
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
½ cup fresh peas or thawed frozen peas
⅓ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon curry powder
pinch cayenne pepper
Chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 350º. Separate wonton wrappers and place in ungreased mini muffin to create a cup. Bake unfilled wrappers for 5 minutes. Set aside

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil potato pieces until just tender, no more than 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a saute pan, heat olive oil. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook an additional two minutes more.

In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, mint, garam masala, and cayenne pepper. Add potatoes, onion mixture, and peas.

Fill each wonton with potato mixture. Bake at 350º for 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped clinatro. Serve hot.

Greek green beans

Four glorious days off in a row! I love my jobs, but this dose of “idleness” and sunshine is just what I needed.Note the “idleness” in quotes. You know me, days off of work just means that I’ll find a different way to fill that time. Friday was filled with spring cleaning and today is full of cooking and delicious recipe ideas. Then sandwiched in between was a great visit from my brother and an awesome Easter dinner with g’ma and g’pa.

Today is one of those days I yearn for in the middle of a stressful week. It’s gray and a little chill out, but that just means puttering around in the kitchen with a giant mug of tea is the perfect way to spend the day. I get to fill my house with delicious smells (and tastes, of course), all the while not feeling guilty about being indoors. After all, testing recipes and prepping amazing things for this week’s lunch is awfully important too. Well, that and shopping for purses on the interwebs, I mean, this girl’s gotta accessorize too.

These delicious green beans might have been my favorite part of the aforementioned Easter dinner. The crunch of green beans with the fresh herbs and bite of lemon just gets up and yells “SPRING!” to me. Nope, not a subtle flavor here. These beans crawl right up in your face. And the only thing that’s going to make them any tastier is when the beans, mint, and dill are fresh picked from my garden. This is sure to be my (and yours too!) go-to green bean recipe this summer.


Greek green beans

Greek green beans

Lightly adapted from Bon Appetit

1 ½ lbs green beans, cleaned and trimmed
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh mint leaves
1 ½ tablespoons chopped, fresh dill
zest and juice of one lemon, less if desired
½ cup feta cheese

Preheat oven to 350º.

In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients. Place into a 2 quart casserole dish. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until heated through. Serve immediately.

Ginger veggie & pretzel dip

Helllllooooooooo! Did you miss me invisible friends? I feel like I’ve crawled back from the brink of death over here. I had the nasty tummy virus that’s been making the rounds. I couldn’t keep food down, let alone write about it.

But not to worry, little chickadees, I am back and dare I say it it, better than ever. I’ve been floating around in a pretty rad state of well being for the past couple of days. I can’t point to exactly why this is, but I sure ain’t gonna argue. Having survived the *hardest* winter, I’ll readily bask in this general sense of awesome

Course, it’s certainly not hurting things that I’m typing this in the greenhouse, soaking in the last of the late afternoon sun, and enjoying a tasty glass of chardonnay. Except for one nagging little item, an awful disinterest in food. Not really what you’re looking for in a food blogger, right? Ever since I crawled out of that fever soaked bed, all I want to eat are raw fresh veggies. So, good thing I discovered this tasty, ginger-laden, veggie dip.

I had mentioned that when we were down visiting friends and fam, we were absolutely showered with gifts. One of which was a fantastic array of cookbooks from my mother in law. I’ve barely made a dent in paging through the bounty, but when I saw this recipe, I had to drop everything to make it.

It’s the perfect dip everything dip – pretzels, wheat-thins, carrots, and my all-time favorite, cucumbers! I made the dip with Himself in mind, who will inhale ginger anything any day of the week, and he really liked it, but this gal could not get enough of it. The tang of the ginger really enhances the veggies, and has a surprising kick. This isn’t your everyday boring veggie dip. But I bet it quickly turns into your go-to veggie dip!


Ginger dip for veg and pretzels

Ginger veggie & pretzel dip

Adapted from the Breakfast in Cairo, Dinner in Rome cookbook

½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons freshly grated and chopped ginger
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (optional)
¼ teaspoon curry powder, plus more for serving

Mix together all ingredients in bowl. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. Serve sprinkled with additional curry powder and fresh vegetables or pretzels.

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